Carolina Hurricanes vs Colorado Avalanche: Game Preview 11-12-13

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche are a perfect 6-0-0 on the road this season. Can the Hurricanes put an end to that streak tonight in Raleigh?

Carolina Hurricanes vs Colorado Avalanche
November 12, 2013 - 7:00 pm ET
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - SportsSouth
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: Mile High Hockey (twitter @MileHighHockey)

Hurricanes Record: 6-7-4 (16 pts.)
Avalanche Record: 14-2-0 (28 pts.)

*** PROGRAMMING NOTE: Tonight's game will be broadcast on SportsSouth alternative channels instead of on Fox Sports Carolinas. Please make note of the channels. The Canes have conveniently linked a channel guide for the viewing area, find your local provider listing on their Broadcast page. ***

A quick look at either the TSN or ESPN power rankings tells all you need to know about the uphill battle the Carolina Hurricanes face this week as they take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight and then a home and away with the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues over the weekend.

But first things first and one game at a time, as the Colorado Avalanche roll into town. And the Avalanche are on a roll, with their best start in franchise history, an impressive 14-2-0 record, clicking in all aspects of their game, and having fun [Avalanche.com]. These two teams last faced each other in Denver on October 25 in a game the Hurricanes lost 4-2, and tonight's game will wrap up their season series.

The Hurricanes suffered a bad stretch immediately after losing goaltender Cam Ward and forward Jeff Skinner to injuries, losing their next five games before starting to regain stability. They have now started to set themselves back on course and have picked up five points in their last three games at home. While still struggling to score goals, their defensive game has been stable, allowing only three goals in regulation in those three games.

The message at practice over the last two days has been to focus on the basics: be ready to skate, be smart in your own end, create traffic, and put shots on net. There have been no changes to the lines over the last two days but a few tweaks on the power play units, mainly to move Andrej Sekera and Tuomo Ruutu (think net presence) to the first unit and to move Ryan Murphy and Chris Terry to the second unit [ch.com] [N&O].

Justin Peters will make his eighth consecutive start tonight. He has been solid over the last three games with a .97 GAA and .963 save percentage and one shutout.

The Hurricanes received good news over the weekend as Cam Ward rejoined the team for practice. Ward's progress has been steady and his practices are reported to have gone well, although he will need more time with the team to get back into game-ready shape. He could be poised for a return as early as this weekend [ch.com].

The news hasn't been as optimistic for Jeff Skinner, who continues to recover from an upper body injury. His return is still expected to be a couple of weeks away, although he (along with Anton Khudobin and Kevin Westgarth) continue to skate and work out outside of the formal team practices.

Tim Gleason is ready to return to the lineup after missing four games. Gleason has mainly skated at practice with Mike Komisarek, who has been a healthy scratch for most of the season, and it is undetermined what lineup changes are in the works with what appears to be eight healthy defensemen.

Speaking of defensemen, in the not-good-news department, the Canes knew they would be without the services of Joni Pitkanen for the entire season, but as reported yesterday in The Hockey News, Jim Rutherford has stated there is a good chance Pitkanen's injury is career-ending. Thoughts are with Pitkanen and his family as he continues to work through his recovery from a broken heel.

On a more positive note, since his NHL return, Manny Malhotra has proven himself quite the solid addition. Not only did he score the overtime game winner against the Flyers last week, but he has been counted on for the key faceoff wins and he has delivered [N&O]. Malhotra will be the guest Thursday night on Canes Corner with Mike Maniscalco (see him in person or listen on 99.9 The Fan).

Expected line-up:

Forwards

Jiri Tlusty

Eric Staal

Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe

Jordan Staal

Tuomo Ruutu

Chris Terry

Riley Nash

Patrick Dwyer

Drayson Bowman

Manny Malhotra

Radek Dvorak

Defensemen

Andrej Sekera

Justin Faulk

Brett Bellemore

Ron Hainsey

Jay Harrison

Ryan Murphy

Tim Gleason

Mike Komisarek

Goaltenders

Justin Peters

Mike Murphy

Depth Chart
Injury Report
Kirk Muller Practice Audio

There's not a lot more to say about the Colorado Avalanche except that head coach Patrick Roy has them clicking on all cylinders at this stage of the season. In addition to their record, they rank near the top of the league in most statistical categories - goals scored, goals against, a terrific penalty kill, and outstanding goaltending.

They have six players with double digit points (compared to the Canes who have exactly... none).

Matt Duchene leads the team with 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) including a three-point effort in the Avs win against the Canes in October.

Alex Tanguay also fared well against the Canes on October 25 with a goal and an assist, but he will miss tonight's game as he recovers from a knee injury. Defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) will also be out of the lineup.

The Avalanche are the only team in the league that is undefeated when scoring first, so it would be in the Canes' best interest to get off to a good start.

Semyon Varlamov is 9-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .936 save percentage in 11 starts. Varlamov had 30 saves (including robbing Alexander Semin on a power play rebound attempt) when the teams met in October. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has two shutouts and is 5-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .970 save percentage in 5 starts.

Projected line-up:

Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Jamie McGinn
John Mitchell - Nathan Mackinnon - Maxime Talbot
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau

Eric Johnson - Jan Hejda
Andre Benoit - Cory Sarich
Nick Holden - Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere


We'll have the open game thread ready to roll tonight at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.

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